Summertime, and the livin' is easy, sizzling hot, frenzy-free, less tethered to email.
But is it truly leisure time?
It should be. Authentic leisure is good for us. It's revitalizing and healthy. But to make the most of leisure it helps to widen rather than narrow our concept of the term, which means not only to be free from the demands of work (even for just a weekend), but also to be still and reflect.
Leisure is culturally misunderstood, says philosopher Joseph Pieper, who maintains that to receive the full benefit of time away from business and chores requires an ability to let things go, to be calm, and most of all to be receptive.
In his now-classic essay, "Leisure, the Basis of Culture," Pieper explains:
"Leisure is the disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion -- in the real."
This reality we're to immerse ourselves in transcends the ordinary stuff of the world that we hold in our hands and see with our eyes and that we've been taught is foundational to existence. What we can experience during periods of stillness, when we contemplate the nature of things, is a glimpse of life as it really is. Our thought is drawn to the idea that life is spiritual.
The Psalmist saw the potential: "Be still and know that I am God" points to the higher level of consciousness one can attain in moments of genuine leisure, and just how real and fulfilling that spiritual idea of existence can be to us. It can profoundly change how we think about and care for ourselves and others.
When it comes to matters of health, the attitude often prevails in society that we're perpetually at risk, that disease is normal and health is not. When our thoughts aren't occupied by responsibilities at work or at home (when we have at our disposal what we commonly think of as leisure time) we end up spending that time waiting for something to go wrong. In essence, we're fearing and expecting illness. That's the wrong attitude to have for staying healthy, and it's a missed opportunity for making the most of leisure time.
We can do better, and we can feel better as a result.
Instead of thinking of time away from routine obligations as merely escape, think of it as the freedom to contemplate the nature and harmony of the things of the spirit, and to experience the rewarding effect such a state of thought can have on your attitude and health.
Try it for yourself. Next weekend set the Blackberry aside for awhile (better yet, turn it off), walk away from the television, stay off the computer and do something life-changing. Open your thought to a diviner consciousness, one that is compassionate, at peace, and wholly good; one that is not a departure from reality but is a clearer sense of it. Experience leisure time unlike any other and you'll realize what you've been missing.
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